Rouben Zachary Mamoulian
October 8, 1897
|Died||December 4, 1987 (aged 90)|
|Occupation(s)||Film and stage director|
Rouben Zachary Mamoulian (/ / roo-BEN mah-mool-YAHN; Armenian: Ռուբէն Մամուլեան; October 8, 1897 – December 4, 1987) was an American film and theater director.
Mamoulian was born in Tiflis, Russian Empire (now Tbilisi, Georgia), to a family of Armenian descent. His mother, Virginia (née Kalantarian), was a director of the Armenian theatre, and his father, Zachary Mamoulian, was a bank president. Mamoulian moved to England and started directing plays in London in 1922. He was brought to the United States the next year by Vladimir Rosing to teach at the Eastman School of Music and was involved in directing opera and theater. Altogether, he served for three years (1923-26) at Eastman.
In 1925, Mamoulian was head of the Eastman School's School of Dance and Dramatic Action, where Martha Graham taught for one year (1925-26). Among other performances, together they produced a short, two-color film titled The Flute of Krishna, featuring Eastman students. Mamoulian left Eastman shortly after, and Graham chose to leave also, even though she was asked to stay. In 1930, Mamoulian became a naturalized citizen of the United States.
Mamoulian began his Broadway director career with a production of DuBose Heyward's Porgy, which opened on October 10, 1927. He directed Wings Over Europe from late 1928 to 1929. He directed the revival of Porgy in 1929 along with George Gershwin's operatic treatment Porgy and Bess, which opened on October 10, 1935. Mamoulian was also the first to stage such notable Broadway works as Oklahoma! (1943), Carousel (1945), and Lost in the Stars (1949).
He directed Applause, his first feature film in 1929, which was one of the early sound films. It was a landmark film owing to Mamoulian's innovative use of camera movement and sound, and these qualities were carried to his other films released in the 1930s. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) is regularly considered the best version of Robert Louis Stevenson's tale; Queen Christina (1933) was the last film Greta Garbo made with John Gilbert; both benefit from being made before the "Hays Code" came into full force. The musical film Love Me Tonight was released in 1932.
He directed the first three-strip Technicolor film Becky Sharp (1935), based on Thackeray's Vanity Fair, as well as the 1937 musical High, Wide, and Handsome. His next two films earned him wide admiration, The Mark of Zorro (1940) and Blood and Sand (1941), both remakes of silent films. Blood and Sand, about bullfighting, was filmed in Technicolor, and used color schemes based on the work of Spanish artists such as Diego Velázquez and El Greco. His foray into screwball comedy in 1942 was a success with Rings on Her Fingers starring Henry Fonda and Gene Tierney.
Mamoulian's last completed musical film was Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's 1957 film version of the Cole Porter musical Silk Stockings. This was one of Porter's less successful stage musicals and was based on the 1939 Ninotchka. The film Silk Stockings starred Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse, with Janis Paige and Peter Lorre in supporting roles.
Mamoulian's film directing career came to an end when he was fired from two consecutive films: Porgy and Bess (1959) and Cleopatra (1963). He previously had been fired as director of Laura (1944). After directing the highly successful original stage productions of Oklahoma! and Carousel, he worked on only a few other theatrical productions, such as St. Louis Woman, which introduced Pearl Bailey to Broadway audiences.
He personally was recruited by Directors Guild of America (DGA) co-founder King Vidor in 1936 to help unionize fellow movie directors. Mamoulian's lifelong allegiance to the DGA, and more so his general unwillingness to compromise, contributed to his being targeted in the Hollywood blacklisting of the 1950s.
He died on December 4, 1987 at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital of natural causes at age 90 in Woodland Hills, California.
The critical appraisal Rouben Mamoulian by Tom Milne was published as Cinema One Series, no. 13 by Thames & Hudson, 1969.
The biography Mamoulian: Life on Stage and Screen by David Luhrssen was published in 2013 (University of Kentucky Press).
On February 9, 1960, Mamoulian received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
It has been established in DC Comics that his film The Mark of Zorro is the film that Bruce Wayne and his family saw in the theater before his parents were murdered. Mamoulian’s film The Mark of Zorro is one of the bigger inspirations of the character Batman. The similarities include the cowl, the dark personality, and mystery of his identity. In Batman: The Animated Series, the character Gray Ghost was inspired by Mamoulian’s version of Zorro.
The Sydney Film Festival has an award named after him: the Rouben Mamoulian Award for the Best Director of an Australian Short Film.
On February 8, 1960, for his contribution to the motion picture industry, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1709 Vine Street.
He was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1981.
In 1982 Mamoulian received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Directors Guild of America.
In 2019, Mamoulian’s film Becky Sharp was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
|1931||City Streets||Paramount||Gary Cooper / Sylvia Sidney|
|1931||Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde||Paramount||Fredric March / Miriam Hopkins|
|1932||Love Me Tonight||Paramount||Maurice Chevalier / Jeanette MacDonald|
|1933||The Song of Songs||Paramount||Marlene Dietrich / Brian Aherne|
|1933||Queen Christina||MGM||Greta Garbo / John Gilbert|
|1934||We Live Again||Samuel Goldwyn Co.||Fredric March / Anna Sten|
|1935||Becky Sharp||Pioneer Pictures||Miriam Hopkins / Cedric Hardwicke||first three-strip Technicolor film|
|1936||The Gay Desperado||Pickford-Lasky||Nino Martini / Ida Lupino / Leo Carrillo|
|1937||High, Wide, and Handsome||Paramount||Irene Dunne / Randolph Scott / Charles Bickford|
|1939||Golden Boy||Columbia||Barbara Stanwyck / William Holden|
|1940||The Mark of Zorro||20th Century Fox||Tyrone Power / Linda Darnell|
|1941||Blood and Sand||20th Century Fox||Tyrone Power / Linda Darnell / Rita Hayworth||Technicolor film|
|1942||Rings on Her Fingers||20th Century Fox||Gene Tierney / Henry Fonda|
|1948||Summer Holiday||MGM||Mickey Rooney / Gloria DeHaven / Walter Huston / Agnes Moorehead / Frank Morgan / Marilyn Maxwell||Technicolor film|
|1957||Silk Stockings||MGM||Fred Astaire / Cyd Charisse||Metrocolor film|
|1944||Laura||20th Century Fox||Gene Tierney / Clifton Webb / Dana Andrews||fired, footage unused|
|1952||The Wild Heart||David O. Selznick||Jennifer Jones||shot extra scenes for the U.S. version of Gone to Earth (GB 1950) / Technicolor film|
|1959||Porgy and Bess||Samuel Goldwyn Co.||Sidney Poitier / Dorothy Dandridge||fired, one scene used / Technicolor film|
|1963||Cleopatra||20th Century Fox||Elizabeth Taylor / Richard Burton / Rex Harrison||resigned, footage unused / color film|